Sunday, December 27, 2009

Latino Christmas

Christmas has just been lovely.

Christmas Eve was done more in the Latin Tradition. We had a wonderful dinner party for friends that lasted until past midnight where we drank wine and chatted and ate lots of delicious food. Well actually, I ate collard greens, which were not delicious; but everyone else had pork loin cooked in cherry sauce and turkey and cheese and other lovely things that I would have enjoyed greatly in my previous life!

Luis of course wanted to open the presents at 12:01am, which to me is ridiculous. You don't open your presents at 12:01! It totally leaves out Santa! I said maybe you could open up one present that consisted of a set of pajamas the night before, but you couldn't open up everything! You had to go to bed, and Santa had to come, and presents were for the morning!

It's a really hard concept for these crazy Latin people, who don't have Santa. I don't really understand what they have, because they do have presents on Christmas day, but they say that Baby Jesus brings them, which is retarded. How can a baby bring presents? A big fat guy coming down the chimney makes more sense than a three hour old infant, aren't I right?

Luis and I are going to have to really get our stories straight with our unborn children so they aren't traumatized by conflicting Christmas myths.

Anyways, we opened presents, I drank organic chocolate with soy milk, and we enjoyed the snow that had fallen the night before. We slept in, took a nap, and went to bed early. It was lovely and relaxing.

I did get a sexy set of flannel Christmas pajamas from Luis.

Friday, December 18, 2009

it's off to work I go, well, I am trying anyway

I'm frustrated.

Luis and I decided that in January I would get a part-time. I am taking a course or two at the community college, and the part time would give me some supplemental income and make our house payments easier until the end of April, when I don't have any more doctors appointments.

However, it is much harder than I thought to find a part time job because I have several limiting criteria.

- It can't meet every day. In fact, I can only work 4 days a week because one day I have to dedicate one day to chemo.

- I need at least an hour available during business hours (not during lunch) because I need to get to and from my radiation treatments, which are starting the 18th of January, and will run every day until March.

- I need to not be in a receptionist position or in front of people because my fucking nose starts streaming blood randomly, which slightly freaks people (especially kids) out.

- I need to be in a position where crying all the time isn't a problem.

Which makes it harder than you would think to find something. The obvious answer is, work from home, which would be great. Except that most of the postings are scams, and I have tried to weed through them to find legitimate work from home experiences, and I have turned up zilch.

Considering phone sex, but I heard that unless you can keep the other caller on the line for over two minutes, you really don't get paid very well, and these callers are extremely adept at finishing up before the heavy charges start after two minutes.

Any other ideas?

Saturday, December 5, 2009

family weekend!

I have been to every Lowe's, Sears, Home Depot, everywhere, and I have given up on finding an affordable faux Christmas tree before Christmas. It needs to be faux because I kill plants and my cats eat anything green that is alive. I want a big ass fake tree. because our living room has huge vaulted ceilings, but they are $700! I mean, if you use it for 10 years, considering you will spend $80-$100 each year on a live tree that you will throw away, it not only makes sense for sustainability but also financially, but it is a big blow to the credit card account regardless.

However, I plan on braving the crowds on the 26th and will purchase one on clearance. I love Boxing Day sales! I prefer them to black Friday because there is less people and items are usually more steeply discounted because the store really needs to move inventory.

Chemo has totally destroyed my taste buds, and nothing tastes good anymore. It doesn't taste bad, mind you, but that joy that you get from eating something really delicious isn't really something I can get anymore. I can get satisfaction from hunger, but eating a delicious lasagna is about the same as eating a saltine cracker. It is just food.

I wonder if that is something that can help people trying to diet or not eat so much. Some sort of pill that takes all the chemical rush you get from eating a juicy hamburger and Micky D's fries. So you eat if you are hungry, but that pleasure center in your brain is not stimulated.

My Uncle had his 50th birthday bash last night, and we went to his house today for brunch. Here is a photo of me holding my little cousin Finnley, (she has a twin brother).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Happy Holidays!

November has just been a crazy month for me, and it has been so difficult to just get on the computer and collect my thoughts. This has to be one of the best months of my year, however. After Japan, I had friends visit me for the first time (besides Lexie to help me out post-surgery) and we had such a wonderful time. My brother-in-law (it still weirds me out to think I have in-laws!) also visited and we had a great time sitting around cooking and eating and talking. Chase and Amanda used to work with me/for me at Meltwater in Washington DC, so we had plenty to catch up on as I really hadn't seen them since I was married.

After Japan in the beginning of the month, we had a huge family trip to Santa Barbara to wine country and that was PHENOMENAL. The first four days was just wine and food with family, and then Friday night and Saturday morning all my wonderful friends drove hours in to see me and hang out. I got to meet their significant others, who were beautiful smart and good looking people that were so much fun to be with.



I got horribly drunk (I can't even remember the last time I was that drunk), but other than a bottle of spilled wine, and a very foggy game of Never Have I Ever, which is never a good game to play with spouses or significant others around because they get all pissed off (never gotten through that game with a boyfriend around without a serious talk the day after), I think I made it through unscathed. A Much better idea would have been Fu** Date Kill, which is a fabulous game that usually doesn't piss people off (since the participants cannot be named during the game).

I learned a new party game called Celebrity, from my friend Joaquin, which was wonderful! You need to be sober, as I tried to get everyone to guess William Shatner by strumming on a guitar. I know what you are thinking, WTF? There is a twisted logic, as the first thing that flew into my head was his perforamnce of Rocket Man in the 1970s. So that is what I went with. I checked on YouTube however, and he didn't even play the guitar when he sang (prosed?) it. Needless to say, no one got it, and I moved on.

So goal in the next three days is to Christmatize (new word) my house. Very exited to pull all the Martha Stewart magazines out, play Christmas music, drink hot tea, and bring the season to my little shack.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Back from Japan


Japan was just wonderful in every way. The best trip. I wish I could have stayed longer, but our pocketbooks think that 5 days in Tokyo, the fifth most expensive city on planet Earth, is just about right. My closest friends from college came, and it was so wonderful being with friends that I have known for over a decade!

Ellie's wedding was phenomenal. She had a Shinto ceremony, which is usually only attended by immediate family members, but all the foreigners that flew in for the wedding, were also allowed to witness the ceremony, which was a once and a life time opportunity. In addition to exchanging sake to signify the union, Ellie also exchanged wedding rings with Eichi.



We were then escorted to a fabulous hall where we had an amazing meal and listened to tons of speeches in Japanese, including one by a haole (Swedish, to be specific) guy who had gone native and spoke Japanese superbly. Even the Japanese people in the audience were shocked at his fluency.

Besides the wedding, Luis and I spent most of the time visiting with Ellie and Eichi and visiting friends. The only touristy thing we did was visit Tsukiji, the largest wholesale fish market in the world. The pre-dawn auction was closed to tourists this year because of hygiene reasons and the fact that flash photography distracted and hid the hand signals from those trying to buy fish. Even so, the visit was impressive.



To be honest, I had a very averse reaction to the market. I have never seen so much dead fish in my life. And I didn't like being surrounded by so much death. No matter what you think about fish, they are animals, and seeing so many dead and butchered animals was obscene. I am not sure if it the cancer, or what, but it wasn't pleasant, and I was really happy to leave the market.

I have been recently paying a lot of attention to the overfishing that is occurring and trying to eat more sustainably (although I avoid dairy, eggs, and land animal meat, and am eating fish once or twice a week). Time magazine (the latest issue with Secretary Clinton on the cover) actually has a long article on the overfishing of the blue fin tuna, whose population is down 90%. The whole point is, eating many fish is the exact same thing as driving a hummer, but no one sees it that way because everyone does it.



Sushi used to be something that was just eaten on special occasions, but for many it is now a weekly or daily meal. It is quite easy to avoid the wrong types of fish with Seafood Watch, a great application on the eye phone that tells you what to avoid and why.

It is harder than I thought, and when I went to the local market the only fish that was in my price range and was a sustainable choice was catfish. Please ask your supermarket or your sushi chef where the fish comes from if it isn't listed. Trust me, someone places those orders and they no EXACTLY where it is caught. It is super easy to check online and see which is the most sustainable sushi to eat if you are a fantastic and can't go without.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

NIPPON KOKUSAI!

Okay, this is gonna be short because I need to be up in 5 hours to get ready to go to Tokyo!

Major achievement for the Day: Clear PET Scan! YAY! I am still in remission!

Going to Japan! Going off my vegan diet and gonna eat lots of raw tuna, kobe beef, and whatever else the country wants to dish up! SHRIMP TEMPURA! NOODLES! All Luis and I plan to do on this vacation is eat and watch the Elster get hitched. No sightseeing or boring castles (Japan's castles are pretty lame anyways cause they all burned down every century or so and had to be rebuilt).

Okay, so I am on my third glass of wine (celebration was in order, don't you think), so no deep thoughts. I just bought like 10 apps to keep me occupied on the plane, including a Japanese dictionary because my Japanese sucks-o mucho.

Hulas are prepped and ready! Oh, yea, I am dancing 2 hulas at Ellie's wedding. I forced her to go to every Hawaii Club Luau at Georgetown, so she actually picked the song Henehene kou `aka (super fun for a wedding) and I chose Wahine ilikea because I danced it at my wedding and Ellie has really white skin(the title means Woman with the White Skin) now that she is in Japan and not subject to college trips to Cancun and other beach locales.

Okay enough rambling! Will update from Japan or when I get back!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Big in Japan!

I am growing hair. I walked into Lowe's the other day (as a new homeowner, I actually walk into Lowe's pretty much every day), and one of the greeters said, I love your haircut! She was African American, and had the same hair length as me, very cropped close to the skin, so actually, what she was saying was, "I love my own haircut," but I enjoyed her self-compliment anyway.

It now looks like I cut my hair to this length, rather than having it styled by a strict chemotherapy regime. Which is pretty great as temperatures nosedive around here in Texas. Some are a bit grey now, but I am hoping that those fall out and I get some pigment back. At what age to most girls start dying their hair because of they grey anyway?

Hair is growing back in other places too, and I am finally using the razor that Luis' mom gave me for Christmas last year. As I was diagnosed immediately in January when I returned from Puerto Rico and I had lost all hair by mid-February, my Christmas gift didn't get any use this year.

I might be able to combine radiation treatments with my chemotherapy regime. Apparently, some chemos actually enhance the radiation effects, or don't diminish it, so I will be able to multi-task on my cancer therapy and maybe really finish in April.

I have a November 4th PET scan coming, and will get the results when I return from Japan to see my best friend and roommate from college get married on the 10th. Luis and I have decided not to travel outside of Tokyo, but go on a full Japanese food fest to find the best ramen hole-in-the-wall and the best tempura bar. I am planning to go to the fish market and have sushi for breakfast after perusing the craziness of fish hawkers in Japan at 5:30 in the morning.

On the non-health front, Luis has gotten an iPhone. He doesn't have a clue how to use it yet, but he has the iPhone, which is a huge step! He isn't technologically unsavvy or anything, he is much better at using film editing software for example, but to be able to email and search on google maps on the road is a priceless tool for him!

Annie Brown, one of my closest friends from high school, are going to take part in NaNoWriMo this year. I am blogging about it so I do it, rather than giving up after the first week, which is what I have done since 2003. NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month, and the goal is to write 3000 words a day of the novel that every person has inside of them. It emphasizes quantity over quality, as most people never try to write it because they are waiting for that perfect moment or time in their life, or to have a detailed outline, or whatever.

I have several ideas, but I am too shy to put them out there until I at least pick one, but I will link to the page and summary once I get some words out there. I actually think it is going to be total crap, because I know from experience I am a great reader, but not a great writer. But again, I am baring it to the public so that I am kept accountable for my goal. My only hiccup is that I go to Japan for 5 days of NaNoWriMo, so that is 15000 words that need to be made up on other days.

Steroids are keeping me up like crazy. I went to bed at 1:30 am on a heavy dose of Benedryl, and now I am up again at 5:30am. Plenty to do though. Blogging, journaling on Penzu, paying off my mounting credit card debt somehow, cleaning the fridge, setting up my office, making the bookshelves look nice instead of just crammed with books, etc. I am also studying for the GRE (which I have been studying for since 2004 when I realized working sucked and all I wanted to be was a student). It is kind of fun learning all the math skills again. I don't really want to go to grad school now, but the scores are good for 5 years, so I thought I ought to take the time.

Okay, tea water is boiling. Actually, I can't drink tea anymore because it gives me heartburn, but I am going to have some yummy hot water in a mug. As soon as the bookshelves are put together I will post some before after pics of our house now that it is painted and set up!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Proselytizing Happiness

We had our first dinner guest last night! It was great, the house is ALMOST orderly. We still need to have a housewarming party, but we need to install handles on our kitchen cabinets, and I still need to go to Ikea to exchange some lights so we can install them and bolt our bookshelves to the wall.

Cancer stuff is
not exciting. I am going to go to a Survivor Party this evening held by my breast surgeon. Tripple chemo whammy today with all three treatments that I am getting. And next week I am going to attend a presentation put on by the head of Oncology at Georgetown University Hospital.

From meeting a variety of women with breast cancer, it seems that there are two paths to dealing with the disease. You either try to get ALL in info you can, stay on top of treatments, new clinical trial results, know all the dosages for the medicines you receive, and attend colloquiums or conferences. Or, you don't delve deeply into anything, don't seek out second opinions, and are just anxious to lodge the experience firmly in the past. It is hard to tell which is better, the first makes me FEEL better, but cancer is personal, and everyone has to do what makes them emotionally able to cope.

This brings me to a lady called Barbara
Ehrenreich, and a book called, Bright Sided. She has been in the paper, NPR, and the Daily Show, so I feel that I have heard her arguments fairly thoroughly, and I have to disagree with most of them. She wrote, Nickle and Dimed, one of the best books I have ever read and ought to be REQUIRED READING IN HIGHSCHOOL, so I have so much respect for her.

She
be lives that not only does the forced, “smile or die” cheerfulness of the breast cancer culture infantilize women, she argues, it can do them harm, by making them feel guilty for “failing” to heal themselves by staying positive. She hates all this voodoo that just thinking something can make a physical impact in the world, and states (quite rightly), that there is no physical proof by quantum physics or any science to substantiate.

She was diagnosed with breast cancer, and it seems like she had a horrible experience with all the "stay positiveness" that is pushed by the greater breast cancer movement. Breast Cancer Support is one of the most highly organized movements, and they do push their pink fuzziness a lot. I think she got sick of people trying to cheer her up, so she wrote a book basically saying that positivity was a delusion akin to organized religion, and she didn't like being proselytized to.

Which I understand. For instance, I love talking to
Kenji, because I can make comments like, "if I die..." without worrying about hurting my family, or eliciting the typical over exaggerated response like,"OH NO! Don't say that! You are going to be fine! You have such a great attitude, you will overcome this." Very few people can hear me say, "If I die.." and take it with the same attitude as if I had said, "If it rains."

That being said, I do not want to begin every sentence or though with a stated or implied,"If I die." I don't want to die in the next five years, although statistically things aren't in my favor, I would prefer to operate as if I was in the minority statistic rather than the majority. So I make plans, talk about kids, bought a house, think about a dog, think about where the future might take my husband and I, etc. While I do appreciate doses of realism, I take small, infrequent doses.

She stated on the radio the other day that she took nothing from breast cancer, and hated all this BS about cancer teaching so much or opening up new doors, etc. She hated this imposition that she was supposed to take something from her experience with breast cancer. I say she is wrong.

She was bitter about getting diagnosed. We all were. But for instance, if my car breaks down and I need to change my tire, I am going to be pissed about it, but in a week I am going to be laughing about it and say, "Thank goodness for my
iphone, I sat in my car, watched a YouTube video on how to change a tire, and I changed to spare right on the street without any help!" It would be a opportunity, a learning experience.

For me, and again I reiterate the personal experience of cancer, I have reaped so much from the experience. I spent quality time with my family, I revamped my diet and the way I think about nutrition, I re-prioritized my life, I became closer to my friends, I have discovered an interest in biology and body chemistry. Never would have happened otherwise. If I had a choice, I wouldn't "do it all over again," but I am not going to deny that their was a MAJOR silver living.

The ONLY interesting thing that she brought to my attention was that she alleges that there is no connection between mood and the immune system. I don't know why I am under the impression that there is. I haven't seen empirical data. I feel that I have read it, but it could be just a myth that has been perpetuated, like oranges and Vitamin C, or poisoned Halloween home baked Halloween Cookie treats (yes, that NEVER happened, just an Urban Myth that has caused parents to toss hundreds of thousands of perfectly baked cookies out of Trick or Treat Bags for the last 3 decades). I will explore more and report! Would love to hear any feedback from anyone who has thoughts.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

back to blogging!

Things have just been so hectic. Will bullet point to save time:

1) Luis and I have joined the real adult world and become home owners. We have been looking for a place to live since May, and more seriously since he got his book contract in August, and we found the PERFECT house. Every house we went into, it was all about how we would change it, what walls we would remove, etc, and we walked into this one, and it was perfect. Huge vaulted ceilings, plenty of room for children, offices, guests, a library, and a very contemporary look with lots of light. Luis didn't want to see anything else, and 45 days later, we are moved in!

2) We are painting it. Hector, the painter is here right now. We are going for a rustic look, save the kitchen which will be very "modern" looking. Our appliances are stainless steel, and we are making it look really sharp. We have also purchased a dining room table, which we will pick up next week once everything is painted!

3) Now I can get a dog. What do you think about this guy? He is available in November.

Actually, I am going to wait until after spring break, when I will finally be off chemo, just going in for radiation, and moving on to my post cancer life. Also, the weather will be better for dog walks:) Luis has given me some guidelines since he is acquiescing to a dog. He wants a small dog, because he think it will be less intrusive, but me (and his friend Alberto) are trying to argue that bigger dogs aren't so yippy and annoying. Small or annoying or big and lumbering. I pick the latter. It also has to be a minimal shedder. I can work with that :)

4) Paul, Willem, Luis, Mom, Dad, and I are heading to the Santa Ynez Valley (Sideways wine country) for Thanksgiving break. Lots of wine, and lots of food! If you want to join, visit, or whatever, bring an air mattress and you are most welcome. I think the house has a hottub!

5) Got a second clear CT scan result on Monday. Yay! Because insurance companies only pay for PET scans every four months, and four months of cancer growth is a loooooong time, especially when you have a very aggressive cancer like mine, you get a CT scan every four months, but staggered, so you have some kind of scan every two months. Think summer Olympics and winter olympics :) This is wonderful news, it means the chemo is working. But the real scans to celebrate are when you are no longer on chemo and still getting clear scans, because that means your body is killing the cancer on its own, not the chemotherapy.

6) I am on weekly chemo doses now, because the mega dose every three week was causing too many side effects. I am also on avastin, which causes my nose to bleed about 4 times a day, which is lovely.

7) I am making a desk. Two of them actually, for my office. I have decided to go DIY and learn how to work with wood, etc. Basics. I am not about to rewire the house or do my own plumbing. I managed to glaze the legs today, and are letting them dry. Tomorrow I am planning to make the table tops!

Well, that is my round up! I will be posting more, now that the hecticness level is way down.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

big legs and thoughts on friends

The swelling in my feet got so bad I am going off taxotere and will replace it with another drug this week. I had 10lbs of water weight gain,which is pretty hectic. It always feels like you have sprained ankles. My legs were so full I couldn't even bend them. Today is the first day that I have seen my ankle bones, so I suspect in another month my lower limbs should be back to normal.

The reason why fluid retention is so dangerous is that you can retain fluid around you heart, which is obviously a hazard. Therefore I need to stop. I am bummed about this for several reasons.
  • Taxotere did not make me want to vomit
  • I knew what to expect. I have gotten into a chemo rhythm. I know how the treatments will affect me, I know how tired I would get (naps required for 4 days), when my taste buds would get back to normal (the second Sunday after my treatment). Now I have to start that "getting-to-know your side-effects" all over again.
  • This chemo regime has been working. Will the next one? The only way you find out is if you don't get cancer after a couple months, or you do . . .
  • I have one less weapon in my arsenal. One less thing that will keep me alive.
I have also been thinking about my friends. Ellie, my best friend from college, is getting married in November, and I am going to Japan for her wedding, so I have been thinking about my friendships over the last decade, and who has stayed in my life throughout that time.

This whole cancer thing has been an eye-opener as to who are my friends and who are people that have fallen into the outer circle, getting closer to the "we used to be friends when we were young" status, and the people that have moved from the "we used to be friends when we were young" to "I know I can count on this person in my present life." This changes happen of course as people move and go onto different chapters in their life. Cancer has just made it more obvious who is who.

I have had a lot of surges of wonderful email correspondences that had been tepid a year ago. People that I have not heard from for years have contacted me and been willing to share their lives with me. It has been wonderful. And I have had visits from people. I mean, if a cancer diagnosis doesn't make your friends want to see you just in case, than nothing will.

This isn't into guilt tripping people into coming to visit me. I am incredibly busy now, about to move, summer is over and people have less time anyway. Luis is working like a madman, and we barely have enough time and energy to socialize with our friends here. I just think it was interesting to see who actually thinks you are worth their precious weekend and a $350 ticket, when you can't offer much else other than your company.

It does sound like a guilt trip, doesn't it? He he he. I don't mean it to be, I think it is just an eye opener. It actually tells me where I am in people's priority list, and most importantly, WHERE THEY SHOULD BE IN MINE.

There is something that I think is the end of all relationships (amorous ones, I mean), and it is called the Gap (not the store). If you love someone more than they love you, or vice versa, there is a Gap, and the relationship is doomed. That difference in love causes a fissure that can cause chaos years down the line although it seems unimportant in present day. It makes people blind to obvious problems that were the relationship regarded equality would never have been allowed to progress.

Friendships aren't affected by that gap as much as relationships. If I like hanging out with you more than you like hanging out with me, our friendship isn't doomed. Might have some misunderstandings or uncomfortable moments coming our way, but it isn't that we can't be friends. But when I tick off my closest friends list, or people that I knew I could call with any problem, just needed to vent or needed a helping hand, this past year has definitely shown me who those people are and who they aren't. And shown me with whom I have a Gap. Informative for me.

So, in my experience, if there is someone that you haven't seen or haven't called, and they are someone you care about or would like to keep in your life, even finding out that they have Stage IV cancer isn't very likely to make you change your behavior. How much effort you will put into that relationship will have to come from within you, not a change in circumstance.

Food for thought. Anyone you think you ought to get in touch with?

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

my new hale!

So big huge major news: Luis and I bought a house! I can't tell anyone about it here because we don't want to announce it until after he gets tenure because we don't want to be perceived as cocky by buying a house before his tenure is decided. But since none of the professor folk read my blog (at least I don't think they do), I thought I would say something here because I am just overjoyed!


We will be able to move in at the end of the month! The house is about a 20 minute drive, or 9 miles from SMU. It is the style we want, the price we want (well, a little higher, but oh well), and the yard I want. It is big enough for family to stay, for us to have our own offices/work spaces. It is just lovely!

Healthwise I am doing okay. My feet are really bloated from the chemo. They are okay when I wake up in the morning, but by midday if you look at me from my ankles down you would think I way 250 lbs. My skin on my feet is all dry from being so stretched out. The fluid isn't just in my feet, but in my legs too, so they feel like water balloons when I try to kneel or stretch. It simply isn't very comfortable.

We had lowered my chemo dose by 5% last time, but my swelling didn't get any better. In fact, it got worse. Sigh.

I talked to Kenji, a boy from my class who also got cancer and doesn't have it anymore, yesterday. He just returned from Swaziland from a stint with Doctors without Borders. It is really nice to speak to someone my age who has had cancer, because I can say something like, " . . . in case I die," without getting the typical reaction from non-cancer people, which is, "Oh don't say things like that," or "Well you won't, you are going to beat this thing."

When I say things like, "In case I die," it is never to get reassurance that I won't. Usually it isn't the main point of my conversation at all, but it always ends up being the focus. When I speak with someone who has had cancer, and I say, "blah blah blah, in case I die," they just nod, and understand where I am coming from.

I am keeping myself very entertained. I just watched the movie, "A Guide to Recognizing your Saints." Really good. It has that kid from Transformers (a movie series that I hate), and he is great! He should stick to those kind of movies, not stupid crap for 10 year old boys. It was darker than I wanted (remember, I am trying to keep my aura light and happy and positive), but very very good.

I have three books in my life right now.

One I read during the day, Hitching Rides with Buddha (a travel memoir), which is wonderful and funny and anyone at all who has visited Japan will really understand and love it. The second book that I am reading a night is the third book in the Diana Gabaldon Outlander Series, Voyager (Romance, fantasy). And the book I am listening to is A Most Wanted Man (Terrorism thriller).

I am going to go buy some comp books from CVS and start taking notes. I bought a BIG ASS college level biology text book from Half Price Books, and I want to start reading through it. Anything to get a better handle on what the heck happened inside my body!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thanksgiving

I have been diligently exercising. Half an hour of walking, and every other day I do lunges and lift weights (3 pound hand weights). I don't think I have ever been this out of shape in my life, but I did complete my walk today without stopping. Still far from a drunk 26.2 mile run, but, I do have a year.

My family is renting a house in Santa Barbara for the week of Thanksgiving and I am so excited I don't know what to do. Paul, Luis, and I pledged to return each year (we have gone two years in a row), but 2008 we were in Hawaii, and 2009 wasn't exactly my year, so I am so glad we can do it for Thanksgiving.

Last time we went with a bunch of friends, and I want to do everything I can to get a big group to go, but the Santa Ynez wine region doesn't have a lot of big mansions with room for 20 to be rented for less than 6k a week, which is cash that I am not in a position to fork over. So my family has a house there that everyone is welcome to for Thanksgiving evening, and to use it as a general resting spot during the day.

Willem, my other brother, from Thailand is going to be there, and it should be so much fun. Mom is Designated Driver, and we are going to get a van and just hit wineries all week. Yay! And hike. And sit in the jacuzzi. And eat.

So invite is out there for anyone who might want to join. Our house rental is in Los Olivos, but all the towns are close by!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Before and After

I went to a friend's clothing exchange and scored a really neat hat. It isn't a summer hat, but I wear it anyway because the air conditioning blowing on my head makes me really cold indoors in Texas. It is big enough that I could possibly have a pixie cut under my hat. I like it a lot.

I was leaving Krogers the other day, wearing my hat, a pair of summer shorts, and a loose tee, and the young man who was bringing the carts back from the parking lot to the store stopped as we passed and said, "How are you doing?"

Now, it wasn't a Joey from Friends,"How you doing?" but it wasn't a simple "Hi" either.

I said fine, and chuckled as I reached my car. Had he known that I had one boob hacked off and was completely bald, there is no way in hell he would have asked me how I was in that flirtatious tone. But he didn't know, so he did.

This incident made me reflect a bit on how my interaction with men in general has changed since I have had my surgery and lost my hair.

This is not me, but I don't have a good before and after pic. Just an illustration.

As a 28 year old, albeit a married one, my interactions with men are always laced with a bit of flirtation, and I believe this to be true of all young women.

That doesn't mean that before I was leaning over counters exposing cleavage, or not mentioning my husband, or touching males on their elbow as I talked to them,. Far from! However, there was always a subconscious body language that I was aware of to use to my advantage. This could be to order a drink at a bar, get a better tip, simply get faster service or a bigger scoop of ice cream.

Sometimes I knew that lingering in a conversation, while not any benefit to me, could make someone's day.

It would also affect my interactions with women too. Women expect good looking women to "be" a certain way. There are snap judgments made upon meeting someone (checkout girl, friend of a friend, whatever) that is good looking (we all do it girls). I would need to use my body language, tone of voice, change the stories I chose to tell, smile a lot more, etc, to either reinforce or dissipate what I thought they felt.

Now that my appearance has changed so drastically, I have removed this from the equation. Now I know that men do not find me in the slightest attractive, cute, desirable, or whatever, my interactions are completely different. As attraction (males) or wariness (females) is no longer in the picture, my interactions are actually far more short and to the point, without any game theory or afterthought involved at all.

Now there is other baggage of course that comes with looking skinny, bald, with one tit, and with a scary looking port popping out of my chest, because I don't hide it. I don't feel I flaunt it, but I wear a camisole tank top with a shelf- bra and it is obvious that something is missing. So I need to change my behavior to make people feel comfortable because people do not want to meet your eye, lest they feel as so they are staring.

But anyway, I realized that the other day, and wanted to share.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Computer Time and Goals

Luis and I are sharing a computer, which is only slightly less annoying than sharing a car. My wonderful father managed to restore my hard drive, but the logic board is still messed up, so I am changing to a Mac Mini and need to get a monitor.

My old Set up:
My New Set Up (well, once it gets here)

Major multitasking possible!

This has limited my ability to get online and really do anything. I am trying to get a job, because I am really frustrated about the lack of money thing. It just doesn't go well with me. I am not a shopper, but I like being able to exercise my whims at the grocery store or half price books. I am looking for a non-stressful job that requires as little thought as possible. Possibly something that will allow me to read the news all day long, which is what I do anyway, except get paid for it.

Now that I am back in Texas and not on vacation mode, I have been able to get back more into watching my diet. When I was at home, I ate pretty much whatever I wanted with arbitrary restrictions (yes to spam musubi, no to cheese). I have gained 10lbs in the last 4 weeks. I thought I could blame my weight gain on the chemo, but it is actually just me stuffing my face that has made my waist tight. Chemo just makes you lazy and less likely to exercise and eat well, not necessarily gain weight by itself.

I know some of you must be thinking, it isn't the time to think about your weight, but it is the time to think about my health, and 12lbs in 4 weeks is NOT healthy. 127 lbs was a bit low for me, but if I can hover around 135, that still keeps my thights slightly dimply and my shoulders soft, but not out of control.

I have read something that exercise reduced cancer recurrence by 60%! That is the same as taking herceptin. So now that I am back in Texas I have started waking each morning for 30 minutes. I get TIRED! It is amazing, I used to elliptical machine for 45 minutes without breathing hard, and now I can't walk 2 miles without stopping to take a breather.

It helps to have a goal though. A girlfriend from high school and I are planning (in a year!) to do the Marathon du M├ędoc, which is a marathon through the Bordeaux region in France. There are refreshment stations every 3-4 kilometers, with wine and foie gras, rather than gatorade and bananas.

I will have to go from the ability to a 2-mile walk to running 26.2 miles drunk in about a year, but it is a fun goal to shoot for!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

White Cells Attack!

Traveling has sapped most of my energy, and who wants to spend time on a computer in Hawaii, but I am back in Dallas and need to start pouring out my thoughts online.

I went camping with a girlfriend my last weekend in Hawaii, and her sister mentioned positive visualization. I made a point to do this a lot when I was first diagnosed, but when it didn't work (according to the PET scan), I stopped. I realize I need to pick it up again.

For those of you who actually want to know what it looks like when your immune system attacks a cancer cell, here you go!



Watch the yellow arrow on this video which points out where a type of white blood cell called a granulocyte is killing cervical cancer cells.

Okay, got a big dose of chemo today and I am COMPLETELY jetlagged, so on to more passive internet activities!

Friday, July 24, 2009

A beautiful dance

Nolo, Luis's brother, passed this video on to me. I don't watch So You Think You Can Dance, but this show is worth it.
On Wednesday's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance," contestants Ade and Melissa performed a contemporary routine inspired by breast cancer to Maxwell's cover of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work."

Before the performance, choreographer Tyce Diorio explained, "I just felt compelled to talk about breast cancer and a friend who was faced with it." The piece moved the entire judging panel to tears. Nigel Lythgoe proclaimed that it reminded him why he loved dance so much and, "If this isn't a [an Emmy] nomination next year, I'll be hugely surprised." Nigel called the powerful lifts and leaps amazing, and admitted he completely lost it when Melissa pounded her fists against Ade's chest.
The anger and frustration portrayed in that one move was all too familiar for Nigel, who has several friends who have fought and are still fighting cancer. Funnywoman and guest judge Ellen DeGeneres felt privileged to have witnessed the performance, and Mary Murphy praised the couple's beautiful dancing. Emmy-winning choreographer and judge Mia Michaels, who was visibly moved by Tyce's routine, was reminded of her own father's battle with cancer and said, "It was really not about the dancing, though it was a perfect portrait of what was being said."
So, in honor of all you women out there who want to see the pain and fright we feel every day represented in a gorgeous dance, here you go:



Via Yahoo TV Blog

Thanks Nolo!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Deathwish?

Nothing much to report today. Chemo uneventful. I have started a countdown. I have 22 more chemo sessions to go (once every three weeks!). I do get herceptin once a week, but as that is not technically a chemo and its side effects are minimal, I don't count that.

Luis and I are going house hunting again on Saturday, just a little further south of Dallas this time, which would result in a 15 mile commute for him, but still allow me some country feeling:)

Saw a lot of people texting and driving today on the road. I will start txts at a stoplight, but I will put down my phone and wait for the next light when the light changes and my foot is no longer on the break.

I think txting and driving is a horrible habit, and I believe it is akin to drinking heavily and driving. At least when you are trashed and driving you are looking at the road in front of you because you know you are trashed. Txting you aren't. And the more often you get away with it, the more you trick yourself into believing that you are a good "txting driver," and will do it more and more.

Same thing with screwing with your ipod. Gosh I can't wait until those things are voice activated! I know that I am one of those annoying people that get into my car at the supermarket parking lot and sit in my car 60 seconds while people are waiting for me to get out of my spot, but I am checking my phone, setting up my ipod, and getting on my glasses so I am driving without distractions. I did not do all the cancer treatment just to end up smashed on the side of the road cause I was responding to a txt while driving.

Found this cartoon by Judy Breck on the subject, and thought you might enjoy it.


Via LifeHacker, and the Washington Post

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Complications . . .

Sorry I haven't posted lately. Been busy with not doing anything like usual. Okay, here's the medical news:

Even though I got a clear PET scan, my doctor wants me to be on chemo for a year. This sucks for several reasons, but a major one is no hair, eyebrows, or eyelashes for a year. I look weird. I need a job, and I look weird going in for job interviews. Even if I wear a wig, when someone doesn't have eyebrows or eyelashes, it throws people off. The whole Monalisa look is just strange. Would you hire her? ---> A year . . . ugh . . . I know, I know, at least I am alive, but man, I was hoping for a trip to Brazil soon! Guess I am going to have to put it off until 2010 . . .

Second, I was driving around with both arms on the steering wheel, and I noticed one wrist was a little swollen, and then it was all downhill from there. I went to my physical therapist, and was diagnosed with lymphedema. This really fricking sucks. I would rather have chemo for a year than lymphedema, but I guess I get both :)!

I knew I was at high risk because they took out all my lymph nodes, but I was hoping to avoid it. Some people don't develop it for decades after their surgery. It only took me a couple of months. The lymph nodes return fluid that has built up in any part of your body to the blood stream. However, I don't have this, so my lymph fluid just stays. Why did I start building up lymph fluid in my arm? The heat? Carrying Neecy around? Carrying my purse on my left arm? Who knows. We aren't sure what triggered the fluid build up, but it happened.

The only thing I know now is arm is swollen. There is no cure, but it can be managed. I get to wear this ridiculous thing on my arm and hand for two or three months (which is just FABULOUS in 105 degree heat). I can't take it off, even when I go out to dinner or try to look nice dressed up.

It doesn't seem like a big deal, but if I were to do nothing, this is what would happen:
Yeah, not so happy.

Would much rather wear the garments I guess. Well, the clear PET scan couldn't have come with no new challenges. Cancer is always keeping me on my toes!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Quick Sum Up

I had a fabulous fabulous weekend.

Friday: Watching a movie with my hubby on the sofa. We watched The International. It had a very weird rhythm. Guns fights lasting a little too long . . . Climax not happening soon enough. But it was okay.

Saturday we slept in and then went to brunch with friends to Cafe Brazil, which does not offer one bit of Brazilian food, but whatever. Then we looked at houses and properties, came home, and Neecy was dropped off to spend the night with us.

Luis went to the gym and I took her to Alberto and Marta's house to play in the pool in the 105 degree heat, and then we went to Taste of Dallas, where all the restaurants set up booths and offer little dishes for 3-6 dollars. Everything had meat in it, but I had a great time anyway, especially watching Neecy and Alejandro enjoy the rides!



We slept in and then got up when Neecy did at 8:30 and got ready to go to another brunch at a friends house, who brought in a chef who cooked AMAZING food. They had tons of vegetables and whole grain bread for me, along with pasta, fish, fresh fruit, and then tons of food I couldn't eat but looked fabulous! We stayed there from 11-5, opening bottles of wine, making fun of each other, and just laughing a whole lot.

Then we took Neecy home and saw Bruno. It is a must. I laughed so hard, and felt so uncomfortable doing so. It was great. This guy is a brilliant brilliant brilliant comedian.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The China Study

My friend James DiPadua suggested I read a book called The China Study. I just finished it today at it was fabulous. One of the most amazing books I have ever read and should be REQUIRED reading for anyone and everyone.



I went to breastcancer.org discussion boards to find out what people thought about it. Not many people have read it, but there was one thread, and I wanted to post what I wrote in case people were wondering about how I was doing on the whole vegan thing.

I just finished the China Study last night. Two months ago I went vegan (I get flexible at restaurants and will order soups with fish sauce or eat fish at friend's houses). I had Stage IV (mets to distant lymph nodes) and my first pet scan showed my treatment had less than a marginal effect. My second pet scan after going vegan was clean. I have no side effects from chemo or Herceptin except from being a bit tired and a dry mouth for one week after treatment. I no longer need nuepogen shots every other day. Bowls are fabulous (2 to 3 times a day).

Anyways, I feel fabulous, I have a full appetite. I unfortunately lost a bit of weight (I am at 127 and I am trying to stay around 130), but I can't eat 24/7, so I just eat when I am hungry, and make sure it is plants not animals.

I am also reading more about the importance of the pancreas and raw foods in helping with enzyme supply so enzymes are spending time breaking down food, but destroying cancer.

Psychologically, it feels wonderful to feel like you are in control again. The emotional boost from that power is invaluable when you have been made so vulnerable by cancer.

I have lost all taste for meat, and don't crave it any more (that took about 8 weeks). Soy milk has been a wonderful substitute for milk, and the only things I miss now are ice creams on hot days in Texas and cheese and sour cream (on chili and baked potatoes, yum!). But I think those cravings will also pass in time. I would rather be alive and in control.

If you read the China Study (for the skeptics about the link between diet and cancer), he explains very well why the information has not been pushed by any of the health organizations or by the US government. It is a fabulous read and probably one of the most important books I have ever read.

So I did this quiz, and here are my results. I found it via Book of Joe. If you are a blogger, I recommend you take it. It is pretty funny.

67%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Created by OnePlusYou - Free Dating Sites



Via Digital Digressions

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Vaccine for Breast Cancer!


Afternoon peeps! I didn't mean to go all political on y'all yesterday, but I just get so frustrated. My darling husband reminded me nicely that many people that read my blog are Conservative. I know that.

But I just hate stupid Conservatives the way I assume that you, my dear conservative readers, hate stupid liberals. You can't possibly think all liberals are stupid, and nor do I think all Conservatives are stupid.

To clarify, when I say stupid, it really means "lazy" and refer to people who do not form their own opinions by looking at information and engaging in intelligent discussion, but instead sit around all day and send forwards to each other all day about how Obama is going to set up concentration camps for white people.

So, my point is, sorry if I offended you, but sometimes talking politics is healthy way to blow off steam. And you really can't get mad at me. I am a cancer patient ;)

So, I wanted to bring to the attention of all those who are HER2+ or interested in this drug is that there is a vaccine that is currently being tested that so far seems like it works. Although HER+ postive breast cancer patients love Herceptin, we know that 40% of people don't respond to it, and many people grow resistant to it. So while it works now, it might not work later. In Phase 1 clinical trials of this new vaccine 70% of patients had a response. Now those are statistics I like!

It works like this: Normally, our bodies doesn't respond to the HER2 protein receptors that are overexpressed on the cancer cells that we have. There are way more than normal on our cancer cells of course, which is why we are considered HER2 positive, but not enough to make our immune system notice.



The vaccine is just a boatload of the naked DNA gene that produces HER2 . It makes your body produce tons of HER2, enough that your immune system wakes up and says, HOLY CRAP WHAT WAS THAT, and it sends of a gazillion killer T-cells that start killing anything that expresses HER2, including your sneaky little cancer cells :)

Basically, the vaccine teaches your immune system to attack your cancer, not ignore it.

No side effects, and after 6 months after taking the vaccine and not being on treatment, subjects are showing no sign of cancer progression. So if this gets cleared, it means I (and anyone/everyone else) won't have to be on Herceptin for the rest of our lives.

They have had so much success with the pretrials, they have already started the process with an improved vaccine, even though the first vaccine is still recruiting for its clinical trials. Here is the full article.

So HER2+ people, if you don't have any sign of disease and you want to join the trial, there are tons going on right now. I am not going to because I want more flexibility right now in my treatment to add and take away different drugs, but I am going to get me some of that vaccine when I am done with this!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Positivity


I am making a concerted effort to surround myself with happiness and positivity. It is generally easy to do, except that my husband has decided to try to understand crazy ass Conservatives by watching Bill O'Reilly and Hannity and Glen Beck, and watch them EVERY NIGHT. I mean, regardless if you agree with the conservative psycho agenda (do you have any question as to where I stand?) or not the shows are:
  • Angry
  • Mean
  • A pathetic charade of journalism and reporting
  • in general a good demonstration of how humans should NOT act toward their fellow man.
I have no problem with smart conservatives. One of my closest friends is the hardest-core conservative I have ever met (and he isn't a watered-down neo-con, he is a conservative a la 1890s) and I adore listening to him and arguing with him because he teaches me a lot, makes me think of things that I wouldn't think of, and makes REALLY good points that I often concede to him. His is a conservative that thinks, looks at the other side, forms structured arguments, and then argues logically without emotion or talking about Christian values.

However, people that say they are conservatives that just like to regurgitate O'Reilly, Hannity, and Beck without actually thinking for themselves really frustrate me. Like the lady that sat next to me during my pedicure yesterday and said, "Obama is turning this country Socialist." I can't even begin to discuss that, because first, she obviously has no idea what a real socialist economy looks like because then those words would never cross her lips.

It's like trying to argue with a 2 year old or with someone insane. If you are operating on two different planes of reality, there will never be a commonality. So you just sigh, and try to distract them with candy, and let them calm them down. And yes, that is how I deal with most conservatives (at least in Texas).

Anyway, the real reason I brought up happiness and positivity is because I am listening to the greatest book! It is called City of Thieves. It seems like it would be depressing, taking place in Russia in 1941 when the attack of the German's is starving the entire country during a bleak and bitter winter, but it is really funny. I took a walk this morning and I started giggling to myself because one of the main characters, Kolya, kept making this hysterical quips. One of the reviewers on amazon described him as: a dirty minded Bugs Bunny come to life as a 6ft tall, Blond hair Blue eyed Russian. That pretty much sums it up!

And your cool vid of the day via Book of Joe:

"A fortuitous orbit of the International Space Station allowed the astronauts this striking view of Sarychev Volcano (Kuril Islands, northeast of Japan) in an early stage of eruption on June 12, 2009. Sarychev Peak is one of the most active volcanoes in the Kuril Island chain, and it is located on the northwestern end of Matua Island."




Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Temps back down!

First the complaints (sorry, this is my venting forum, people):

Chemo has exhausted me
so much I am sleeping 10 hours a night, which is great, but I am too tired to do anything. My tear ducts have swollen shut, so rather than the tears just filtering down the back of your throat like normal, they just pour out my eyes like I am cutting onions ALL THE TIME. My feet have swollen because of the chemo, so I am no longer a size 9, but a 9.5. Which sucks cause I can't wear any of my shoes, and I am not making money so I can't justify shoe shopping. BUT, it gives me a great excuse to dress like a scrub and wear locals slippers all the time.

I actually don't like locals that much, I prefer the plain black rubber kind with the little musical notes on them because they are softer, although they don't provide as much protection from the kiawi thorns as locals do.

So I was driving to Asian market yesterday, and this black guy in a dark green lexus was in front of me. We were waiting for the left turn signal to change to green. He was drinking a sprite, and I watched him down it, then toss the sprite can out the window! WTHECK? I couldn't believe it!

I mean, littering was so 80s! Who does that anymore?

I mean, he isn't 18 and stupid and trying to show off. If he has a Lexus, I assume he has a home with a trash can, and he could probably wait the whole 15 minutes it was going to take him to get it home, where he would have the option of recycling it in the FREE BINS provided by the county. But he just tossed it out the window!

I almost called the police, but 911 for littering seemed a little much. If it hadn't rolled down an embankment I would have gotten out of the car, picked it up, yelled at him, and then taken it home thrown it away in my own recycling bin.


So, I got home, and uploaded the photo I took of his car and the picture on ZAPTAG.com, which is a fabulous site where you can vent about how crappy drivers are and post their license plates up online (and yes, search for your own!). While I know it did nothing, it made me feel better publicly complaining about him. Weirdly, there are a lot of people from the Aloha State on this site.

I encourage people to post bad drivers on this site so there is some kind of public watchdog because obviously people's own morality and sense of social responsibility don't suffice.

The picture of the hapai lady on my profile pic is a default photo (I know, weird), so not keeping any big secrets from you all!

The temperature is back down to high 80s, which means we don't need the air on and we can cook in the kitchen without dripping sweat. I made a very yummy hearty millet and butternut squash soup yesterday. Luis and I have been trying to cook more with whole grains because we have both noticed that our gastrointestinal system functions BEAUTIFULLY when we eat more of them.

So, what is millet? It looks like bird seed. Actually, I think it honestly is one of the ingredients in bird seed. It is one of the oldest grains in the world. A very biblical grain. I actually made my own vegetable stock from the ends of vegetables I have been saving for a month in a freezer bag, and used a butternut squash that has been on our counter for two months. Just boiled the millet for 30 minutes, added cubed butternut squash for another 30, through everything into the blender, and added some chives and homemade pesto. Tasted awesome. For those interested in the nutritional value, a serving supplies 400% of you requirement for vitamin A, 70% of vitamin C, and 7g of protein!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

My New Classification - STAGE IV-NED


I haven't posted for a while because I was too nervous about the PET scan, and then when I got the results of NED (No Evidence of Disease) on Thursday morning before chemo, I was almost too relieved to post. Putting it down in writing, while making it seem more permanent, also scares me. Several months ago, when a different cocktail made my tumors in the lymph nodes in my neck disappear, they popped right back up as soon as I got off the chemo to prepare for surgery. I just don't want this to be temporary too . . . I am totally bored of cancer. It was interesting, but honestly I am really over it.

For those who can't remember the difference between PET, CT, and MRI scans:

CT scans show structure by looking how fast dye is absorbed, but it looks at it structurally. I can see a tumor, but can't tell if it is benign or not, for example.

MRIs can tell the difference between diseased and healthy tissue. So if we know that you have a tumor in your breast, but want to see the exact shape and size and how far it has extended toward the chest wall, we give you an MRI.

PET scans are cool because they measure how active cells are. They can tell the difference between dead tissue and live tissue, and cancerous (very active cells) and non cancerous tumors. They can also do 3-D images.

They can only detect cancer cells that have amassed in over a millimeter thick, wide, square, whatever. For us non-metric people, a millimeter is about 1/17 of a dime. Still visible and tangible, but small.

However, having a PET scan show NED is important emotionally and physically in so many ways.
  • This is the first good news I have received. I can actually tell people that I am getting better rather than saying, "I hope I am getting better."
  • I can now start my clear PET scan calendar as of July 2, 2009 and say, I have been clear for 3 months, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years (now we are getting into hopeful territory!), 20 years. A lot of woman start this calendar from diagnosis, but I would feel much safer with the aggression of my tumor to start from the first clear PET.
  • Something is working on me. Hopefully it is the Herceptin because I can get that long term (year or two!) while the Taxotere is a chemo therapy and reduced quality of life somewhat.
  • I have time. To be honest, I didn't know how much time I was going to have if this thing kept spreading, but now, I know I am going to be around for a little while! You will be forced to keep reading this blog for a bit!
However, this isn't the beginning of the end of treatment, as my doctor explained to me. We have to stop the cancer from coming back.

The information I am posting next is NOT meant to be a downer or depressing. It is a small sample of 100 woman (which medically, no one would take seriously), with nothing about age, attitude, life style changes factored in. However, it does show that we are just beginning.

There was a study published looking at 100 woman exactly like me, Stage IV-NED:

10% of women with metastatic breast cancer have a recurrence of their disease as an isolated lesion (local, regional, or distant). These are patients with stage IV breast cancer with no evidence of disease, or stage IV-NED. So I have a 1/10 chance based on this study of getting cancer again.

Patients and methods: Ninety-six patients with isolated recurrence of stage IV breast cancer were analyzed retrospectively. Prognostic factors were analyzed and correlated with disease-free survival (DFS) (this is the group I want to be in!) and overall survival (OS).

Results: Five-year DFS and OS for the whole group were 29% and 49% respectively. DFS was also significantly better for patients receiving systemic therapy after local treatment (31% vs. 19%). Remember, these statistics ONLY APPLY IF I HAVE A RECURRENCE.

Conclusion: Patients with stage IV-NED have poor prognosis due to early development of metastatic disease. Absence of axillary nodal involvement at the time of mastectomy and systemic therapy following local management is associated with improved DFS and OS (I did have axillary nodal involvement, boo). These results suggest that systemic therapy after local treatment in stage IV-NED is indicated (which is what I am getting, lots and lots more chemo!).

So, my goal is NOT to get cancer again cause then statistically I am in the shithouse and I will have to figure a way out again. My next post is going to be about how I am going to take control of that and make sure that doesn't happen!

So give me all the chemo I can handle, all the herceptin I can take, and all the supplements I can stomach. Still off of meat, cheese (MY FAVORITE), and wine (although to celebrate I had a glass of malbec and champagne last night). So have a glass of wine for me, eat some cheese, and I hope I get to see you all soon at some point! Love to you all! - Dana

PS - Gonna start video blogging soon! Will update as soon as I get my Flip HD Camera!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Miracle Drug Olaparib

My heart is just bursting with mahalo. Thank you so much to everyone who donated to Jonas fundraiser! I will update you and let you know how he does once the race is over :) Of course he is going to kick butt. This guy is one of the most competitive people I know (in a good way, not in a "jerk" way). He even tries to beat the "arrival time" on his car GPS!

I was listening to the NYT Audio Digest like I do everyday, and they mentioned a book that I thought would be great reading for anyone, not just breast cancer fighters, that need to be inspired. It is called Ice Bound: A Doctor's Incredible Battle for Survival at the South Pole.

Basically, this female doctor going through this horrible divorce volunteers to be a doctor at the South Pole over winter. While she is there, she discovers a lump, does a SELF BIOPSY (really hard core), and finds out she has a really aggressive fast growing cancer. And she can't leave. No flights can get in or out of the South Pole during winter. Not exactly the situation that you want to find yourself in.


When I was diagnosed with my aggressive fast growing cancer, the doctors didn't even want to wait 10 days for me to freeze embryos. She has to wait 6 months with no surgery/chemo/hormonal therapy/herceptin/nothing. So she looks at all the rudimentary tools she has (rudimentary in relation to breast cancer) and she begins to treat herself!

It is only 1 cent used (of course shipping is $4) on Amazon, so treat yourself! And for those non-readers, you can get the DVD staring Susan Sarandon;)

Breaking News!

There is a pill for breast cancer if you are genetically predisposed. Yes! A pill. If you test positive for BRCA1 or BRCA2, you can take a PARP inhibitor called olaparib that shrinks inoperable tumors! And it doesn't make you sick! Here is the article if you want to find out exactly how it works. And here is the original study that appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine three days ago. Here is how to enroll in the clinical study.

PS: Olaparib did not help 41 other patients with tumors that were not associated with BRCA mutations. But they are working on it! Any breakthrough is a breakthrough for everyone.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcdfw.com/video.